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Hairy Woodpecker (male) or Downy Woodpecker (m)? (1 Viewer)

Hi!
Can someone tell me which one I caught? And what is the difference between these two (besides the long/short bill)? I have a hard time to see a difference in my field guide.

Thank you! :)
 

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A2GG

Beth
United States
Looks to be a Downy.

In the East you can separate them by looking at the red patch on the back of the head.
If it's divided by a black line it's a Hairy. Also, look for the barring under the tail for the Downy. From a side view
of the Downy the outside tail feathers look like they have a few spots (from the barring). The outside tail feathers on
the Hairy will look white with no spots. Sometimes this is hard to see.

Also, Hairy Woodpeckers have a shoulder spur; a black line extending out from the shoulder. Downy can exhibit a shoulder spur
as well, but it's not as pronounced.

Eventually you should be able to separate them much of the time by size and bill length.

1664483323338.png

1664483253389.png
 
Last edited:

Butty

Well-known member
what is the difference between these two (besides the long/short bill)?
You got it - when it's not possible to judge size reliably, that's (as near as makes no difference) all there is. Depending on where you are (btw, where are you? - you don't say and that's an essential piece of information for every ID), and on what the pattern is, the outer tail-feathers may also be useful; your field guide will give you the details.
In the East you can separate them by looking at the red patch on the back of the head.
If it's divided by a black line it's a Hairy.
Is this the feature in Sibley's blog? I had a look at that a long time ago and concluded it was really dubious.
 

A2GG

Beth
United States
Is this the feature in Sibley's blog? I had a look at that a long time ago and concluded it was really dubious.
Here's the source: Another clue for identifying Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers – Sibley Guides

When I get a good enough view of the red patch I have noticed it's indeed separated by the black line on the Hairy.
However, sometimes the red hair overlaps some and the separation doesn't look as obvious.
You need to have a decent close view. I can't claim I've seen this on all male Hairy Woodpeckers, as I just haven't always had
the best view to examine properly or I've identified using other field marks and ignored the red patch.
 
Looks to be a Downy.

In the East you can separate them by looking at the red patch on the back of the head.
If it's divided by a black line it's a Hairy. Also, look for the barring under the tail for the Downy. From a side view
of the Downy the outside tail feathers look like they have a few spots (from the barring). The outside tail feathers on
the Hairy will look white with no spots. Sometimes this is hard to see.

Also, Hairy Woodpeckers have a shoulder spur; a black line extending out from the shoulder. Downy can exhibit a shoulder spur
as well, but it's not as pronounced.

Eventually you should be able to separate them much of the time by size and bill length.

Thanks a lot for posting the illustrates and describing the details. It helped me a lot. Its so fascinating to see how it comes down to the details.
My field guide is nice but I couldn't figure out the differences (at least not on the pictures). I will take a further look into the Sibley Guides.

You got it - when it's not possible to judge size reliably, that's (as near as makes no difference) all there is. Depending on where you are (btw, where are you? - you don't say and that's an essential piece of information for every ID), and on what the pattern is, the outer tail-feathers may also be useful; your field guide will give you the details.

Is this the feature in Sibley's blog? I had a look at that a long time ago and concluded it was really dubious.
It was a bit challenging for me. I am completely new to birding and I have no reference yet. At least for me, the camera angle wasn't perfect for that decision. I'm sorry that I didn't mention the Location. I took the Picture in south east Pennsylvania.


Thanks a lot to everyone that helped me. I really try to figure it out by myself, but for a beginner it can be a big challenge :-D
 

Butty

Well-known member
If you want to get seriously into bird ID, one of the Sibley books is an essential (though this head-pattern feature isn't in them). I would also urge you to spend more time looking through binoculars than through a camera - this is the way to true enlightenment 😉
 
If you want to get seriously into bird ID, one of the Sibley books is an essential (though this head-pattern feature isn't in them). I would also urge you to spend more time looking through binoculars than through a camera - this is the way to true enlightenment 😉

I don’t know what makes you think that I don’t do that but ok 🤷🏻‍♂️ (I use the Nikon 8x42 M5 Monarch).
A reason to take pictures is to identify them. In that way I have all the time in the world to figure out what I saw at home and I can match them with my field book/ the informations I find.

If you put these two birds on the same tree for me, moving/flying around, with my status of experience. I wouldn’t even know they’re different birds.

Just to make it clear, I started birding maybe 4 weeks ago, so my knowledge is really limited. I am really happy for every bird I can watch and if I have a change to freeze it on my camera to identify it at home, I will do so.

If you have a different opinion or maybe reason why mentioned the last paragraph, please let me know and educate me.
 

Butty

Well-known member
I don’t know what makes you think that I don’t do that
I (carefully) didn't say that I thought you don't do that - nor that you shouldn't take photos. But... there is a whole huge lot more to be learnt about birds and birding than can be acquired from photos - and, being the consuming occupation that it is, time spent taking photos will tend to reduce time spent learning by watching. Like so much in Life, a balance is nice - but, the natural tendency is to secure better and better shots - better than is necessary simply for identification - and striving for photo-quality will definitely eat into watching/learning time. It's a personal choice.
 

MikeInPA

Well-known member
I (carefully) didn't say that I thought you don't do that - nor that you shouldn't take photos. But... there is a whole huge lot more to be learnt about birds and birding than can be acquired from photos - and, being the consuming occupation that it is, time spent taking photos will tend to reduce time spent learning by watching. Like so much in Life, a balance is nice - but, the natural tendency is to secure better and better shots - better than is necessary simply for identification - and striving for photo-quality will definitely eat into watching/learning time. It's a personal choice.
Perhaps that's why I'm so crap at identification. :(

Here's a shot of a Hairy Woodpecker I took this morning. ;)

Downy Woodpecker 3.jpg
 

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